The never-ending to-do list

Spring has finally made it to Edinburgh! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the buds are budding and the Katherine is spending all day imaging her cells in a dark windowless room… However I am slowly crossing more experiments off of my never-end to do list.

Medical Biology 1- Check
My work as a facilitator for the 2015 edition of MB1 is finished! I facilitated the group discussions and marked and provided insightful (hopefully!) feedback on the written reports. My last task as a facilitator was to mark lab reports for a practical. The practical involved taking non-invasive biological measures (height, weight, lung capacity, heart rate…). In their report, the students had to analyse the data and relate the group’s results to national or international averages and discuss the limitations and benefits of non-invasive biological measures and relate them to topics covered in the course such as obesity. It was really interesting to see these first year reports. Grading these reports made me wonder about when and how I learned how to write a proper lab report with detailed methods and a discussion. I don’t know at which point one learns to write a proper lab report, I don’t even want to go back to look at the biology reports that I wrote up in college. I guess it only gets easier once you read a tonne of journal articles. Hopefully if these students continue in science and do research, they will have me to thank for improving their lab report-writing skills hahaha.

BNA Festival of Neuroscience- Check
As I have previously mentioned on the blog, the British Neuroscience Association’s biennial conference was held in Edinburgh this year. It was INCREDIBLE. There was so much neuroscience in every shape and form. From drosophila to AMPA receptors to computer models and human MRI studies, there was definitely something for every neuroscientist. As someone having studied neuroscience in my undergrad, I have a broad background in the field and I was lucky enough to be able to follow all the talks to a certain extent. I am a self-proclaimed nerd, so I don’t have any shame admitting that I geeked out during some of the talks, particularly the ones by Richard Morris (Morris watermaze!), Susumu Tonegawa (Nobel Prize laureate for his work in immunology who since has started working on learning and memory!), John O’Keefe (2014 Nobel Prize laureate for place cells!) and Giacomo Rizzolatti (the discoverer of mirror neurons!). [On a side note, I distinctly remember the lecture in which I first learned about mirror neurons and how fascinating I found them, I am so happy that I got to see Rizzolatti present his work. It is a neuroscience dream come true.] It is incredible how much work all the speakers have accomplished. And not just the speakers! The posters were also quite impressive and very diverse. Unfortunately, my poster didn’t win, but I did have good chats with people who came up to see it. There was even someone from Cardiff who had been given explicit orders to come talk to me about my results by a PI in Cardiff who couldn’t make it to the conference. All in all, although it was quite overwhelming and a very tiring 4 days, I am so happy and grateful that I got the chance to go and present a poster.

Experiments- Definitely not check
This month has been a bit slower in terms of experiments. I was away at the BNA for 4 days so I made sure not to plan any experiments for that time. My cells have also just not looked particularly happy, so I held off on imaging them. However, the most recent batch that I was imaging (including the ones I was looking at today) all responded perfectly and did exactly what I wanted them to. It was so wonderful. I managed to image 38 cells in 2 days! That is a personal record. Now I have to do the analysis. Fingers crossed that that goes as smoothly as the actual imaging did. I am anticipating a 5-day imaging week in two weeks. If everything goes according to plan (which it never does in science, because of the evil lab fairy who ruins experiments) I should be tidying up one of the branches of my project (the one that I thought was finished) in the next month, just in time for the first year report. More on the first-year report next month. Until then, lots of quality time with my beautiful new microscope.

Mini City-break- Check
My friends (fellow PhD students) and I took a break from the bench and flew off to Dublin last weekend. I think that being able to go on these weekend trips are a huge benefit of living in Europe. It wan’t the most relaxing weekend but we immersed ourselves in everything Irish for 48 hours, from a walking tour of the city, to the Guiness Storehouse to listening to live Irish folk music in Temple Bar and visiting the baby elephant at the zoo. It was a whirlwind, but I nice change of pace from my dark imaging room :).

If I wish that my to-do list goes away, will it? Maybe I’ll add it to the bottom of the list!